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Dynamic Range

Lesson 2 from: On-Location Light and Lighting

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

2. Dynamic Range

Mark explains the main issue that we need to solve when shooting outside: dynamic range. Understanding this concept will make a huge difference to your on-location sessions.

Lesson Info

Dynamic Range

There is a huge issue that we're trying to solve when we're shooting on location. And that has to do with something called Dynamic range. And so to explain this, I've made a cheesy graphic. And so we're gonna go to my iPad, that is drawn here and I'm gonna show you this. So, when we're looking at light we have a scale from the very darkest all the way over here to the very brightest. So, this is dark right here. This is bright. And so what we can do is if we look at like this backyard here so we have the backyard and it is way over here to the right of our scale, it's really really bright and where I'm standing. It's the shades. So, you can see that we have a big problem here because the light from the patio, the shade is over here on the dark area. And the light over here in the backyard is way over on the bright area. And so what we need to do with that is fix it because we have some thing called dynamic range. That's this little thing right here. Our camera can only see so much. Oka...

y. So, let me just do this here. Yeah. Our camera can only see that much of the light. And so the problem with that is if we try to expose for the back yard so we'll move our cameras dynamic range over here. If we try to expose for the black yard, well, we can see that our patio over here this whole thing that is gonna be underexposed. We won't see it. It's gonna be totally dark. Or if we try to expose for let's say the patio so we can move this back. So now we can expose for the patio but then what happens is the backyard over here I'll make that a different color all this right here, it's overexposed. And so we have to make this choice. If we don't have a flash, are we gonna expose for the shady area, which is what we're doing with the video right now, or do we expose for the really bright area, because our camera can only accept so much. You can't do the whole thing. And so, no matter what you do here, our cameras dynamic range, how much you can control it doesn't change. So it's either exposed for the patio or exposed for the bright backyard. If you try to mix those things, what you'll get is you'll get exactly this. You'll have a shade that's underexposed. And so let me delete this little scribble. So, we'll have the patio here, underexposed, all this is under exposed and all the backyard here, overexposed. And so none of this is good. And so what we have to do is fix that. So how do we do it? Well, what we can do is if we can take the, the dark part of our exposure, in other words, the shade right here if we could, for some reason, take that And add light to it. Well, then that is going to start matching the backyard. And then our camera, what it will do is then we can, oops I have accidentally selected two things. Then our camera's dynamic range is going to be able to get the backyard and also the shade 'cause we're adding light to the shady area. So, what we're doing is we're pushing that dark area into the same luminescence value or exposure value as the big bright backyard. And so that's all we're doing with dynamic range. As we know that our camera can only take so much. So if there's anything too dark to match a really bright ambient light, we need to add light to it. So it moves up and it's as bright as the bright ambient light. And so we can do that by using something called the exposure triangle. And that helps us do the exposure from our ambient light and our ambient and our exposure from our flash. We can control those two things independent of each other. So, now that we know about dynamic range that our camera can only take so much from dark to bright. And when we're shooting in a location like this we have to take the dark area and brighten it up. So, it matches the brightest ambient light those two things match. Then the camera can capture everything well to do that we have to use external lights, speed lights, flashes off camera flashes. And the thing is when we're using those things outside on location, they behave a little bit differently. Well, a lot differently than they do in the studio. 'Cause in the studio you're only worried about the light in the studio. You don't really have any ambient light to worry about but when we're in a location on a location we have to balance those two things. And so they behave differently and that all comes down to sync speed how our cameras shutter works with our flash. And so let's talk about sync speed and the implications sync speed has on location shooting and then we're almost ready to start shooting.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Flash Exposure Worksheet
Frio Grasp Mini Discount
Tether Tools Pro Kit Discount
Tether Tools Starter Kit Discount

Ratings and Reviews


An excellent real-life exploration of basic lighting techniques that can really make a difference. I especially appreciated the explanation of high-speed sync and the outdoor demonstrations with light modifiers. This is a perfect add-on to Mark's Understanding Light course.

Bill Johnson

Marc created a great class. Early on in the class things went slow and methodically through the basics. This is important. He could have told us but instead he lead us to discover...a much more powerful learning method. Then came all the different approaches and problems, Plus if you don't feel confident, it's here to go through again if you purchased or subscribed. I give the class 100%

Thomas WIlliams

This is a great look at methods of using natural and artificial light on location. It is very informative as well as entertaining to see Mark on set as a working pro and making a few mistakes. This is a practical and easy to understand course. We’ll done!

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